Why I Was Never a Riot Grrrl

The Punk Singer logo

A couple of years ago I saw ex-Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna speak in New York City, right before she donated her musical archives to New York University’s Fales Library. I was struck by her acerbic wit, her ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude.

While I was a teenager during the grunge and Riot Grrrl era, for some reason I was (at the time) more drawn to hyper-masculine, testosterone-saturated grunge and metal bands and was not that interested in what was happening on the other side of the scene. As Hanna’s talk was intriguing, I took the opportunity to check out The Punk Singer, part of the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.

About 10 minutes into the documentary, I knew that I had made a colossal mistake.

Well, actually, as soon as I saw a snippet of 17 year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson waxing poetic about an era she was not even alive to witness, I knew that I would not be able to put my personal biases in regards to my age—and more importantly, my ethnicity as a black woman—aside when watching this documentary.

From watching The Punk Singer, I realized why I had never been that psyched on the Riot Grrrl scene. It wasn’t for me. It was for white women.

In The Punk Singer, women I greatly admire, like Joan Jett, Corin Tucker, Kim Gordon and Tribe 8’s Lynn Breedlove laud Hanna’s courage and tenacity. And a great front person she is.  But the film is a simplistic portrait where the flaws of both the riot grrl phenomenon and Hanna are not examined. 

The film tells the interesting story of how Hanna got involved in the music scene: Hanna always knew that she was an artist, but the brutal assault of a close friend propelled her into first becoming a spoken word artist. A friend suggested that she might get more attention if she was in a rock band. Bikini Kill was anchored by Hanna’s personality, her powerful voice, and—while no one seemed to mention the elephant in the room—her beauty. She is one drop-dead-gorgeous-looking woman, both as a teenager and now as an adult. I would argue that it was her physical attractiveness helped her music get mainstream attention. Some in the film point out that some women at the time (and still) had issues with Hanna showing her body during performances, arguments Hanna dismisses as being anti-feminist.

Hanna briefly notes in the film that she used to work as a stripper. Later in the film, archived footage of a panel discussion she participated in shows her blaming the media for making accusations that she is a stripper. While being a stripper is nothing to be ashamed about, own it.  In reference to that that panel, she accuses female journalists of being condescending and seems shocked that “women are doing this to other women.” That comes off as being oddly naïve and a great example of her penchant for navel-gazing: A woman who works as a stripper is taking her clothes off for the enjoyment of (primarily) men. It might be a stretch for women who have never been strippers to understand how a self-proclaimed feminist would willingly choose to put herself in a position where she is at the financial mercy of a man.  While I didn’t know this until after I saw the film, there has been much consternation with punk women working as strippers. Mimi Thi Nguyen notes the discussion in her essay “Riot Grrrl, Race and Revival” (PDF) in the feminist theory journal Women & Performance: “The ‘passing thru’ of some punk women into the sex industry detrimentally alters the ‘class/ beauty standards’ (because of lifelong access to healthcare, for instance) that others whose survival depends upon an underground economy must accommodate thereafter.”

Now I remember why I never felt interested in being part of the riot grrrl scene. The film shows snippets of footage of young white women in that era, saying that the riot grrrl was a scene in which they didn’t have to fight in the mosh pit, or have men sexualize them for being at a show. For me, I was in the mosh pit, getting bruised and punched because as an individual, not as a woman, I wanted to be where the action was and even back then I knew that allies, regardless of gender, were few and far between. So I was just me.  I also remembered being more fearful of being assaulted because I was black than because I was a young woman. I would have almost begged to be seen as a woman back then, but my ethnicity trumped my gender.

In Women & Performance, Nguyen writes that certain forms of rebellion performed by white women were translated differently when filtered through a racial lens.

“For instance, women of color wondered out loud for whom writing ‘SLUT” across their stomachs operated as reclamations of sexual agency against feminine passivity, where racisms had already inscribed such terms onto some bodies, and poor or criminal-class women argued that feminists ‘slumming’ in the sex industry (through stripping, for the most part) as a confrontational act implied that other women in this or other tiers of the industry were otherwise conceding to patriarchy.”

I distinctly remember the white women within the punk scene were capable of being just as exclusionary and bigoted as the men were, and among the white women I knew who identified as feminists, there was a strong sense that there was little to no concern as to how ethnicity made my experiences as a woman different than theirs. There was no knowledge, and more importantly no interest to know…well outside of Rebecca Walker, who was the right age, of the right class and most importantly, not ‘too angry’ to alienate them or challenge their naïve idealized notions about how the world works. If my ideas differed from them, guess who was wrong and who was right?

Given the lack of women of color in The Punk Singer, we were an afterthought, and from reading Nquyen’s essay, this issue is nothing new – this documentary was the latest demonstration of a woman using her societal privilege to dabble in a sub-culture and while at the film’s ending, even though she is happily married and has a family and insists that her feminist ideology still remains true—she has been able to exit into a comfortable life in which many, for instance women of color who strip for survival, cannot.

In addition, one of The Punk Singer’s interviewees Jennifer Baumgardner proclaims some revisionist feminist history: that ‘feminists’ from as far back as the 18th Century were somehow responsible for promoting racial equality during the Civil Rights era. In the States the emancipation of slavery was seen as a tool for women’s organizations to bolster their own rights and there was no activism specifically conducted to liberate black women from the physical and sexual abuse they faced at the hands of their slave owners. This offensive statement cemented what had bothered me about the Riot Grrrl scene: These women activists created a movement that was only relatable for them and there was no thought given to the inclusion of women of color. We were expected to be grateful that they were fighting for us because we shared the same lady parts. That was not—and still is not—the case. 

In terms of providing a historical narrative of the Riot Grrl scene, The Punk Singer does an adequate, yet rushed job within an 80-minute film. Is Hanna iconic? For some people, she definitely is. Especially for those who do not want to either look too deep into the film, or for young, heterosexual, able-bodied white women like Gevinson who clearly romanticize that era and are looking for an icon. But I didn’t see it. 

For more on race and riot grrrl, check out Bitch’s interview with Mimi Thi Nguyen in our new issue Micro/Macro, which you can buy online

by Laina Dawes
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75 Comments Have Been Posted

Thank you for this piece. I

Thank you for this piece. I deeply wanted to explore riot grrl music once I found out about the era some years back, but there was a lot I read about the leaders that held me back. Your article explores some of the themes I am familiar with and introduced me to some I had not considered as fully. My hope is that a new generation of feminist musicians will arise within rock music (and other genres) that will be more balanced and inclusive.

Ideally, white women should

Ideally, white women should just realize their privilege and step in a do something that actually matters. However, our ignorance into what it is like being POC prevents a lot of us from even realizing our privilege. Without people in the scene pointing out my privilege and opening up discussion on this topic, I would not, and I still do not fully, realize my privilege. I am eternally grateful to these people for helping to create a diverse network in my own community and within the punk community as a whole.
I am so happy that these people didn't just sit complacently in a male dominated culture because they saw something wrong with the other spectrum of the community and refused to fix it. I'm glad that they didn't just sit around and complain about the way things were for them, because that doesn't change anything.
Your commentary is interesting. But it's also bitter. It's not a feminist commentary, not because you called out an area feminism but because your discount sisterhood and throw the entire movement under the bus by refusing to belong to a movement that didn't include you. And from what you said, you didn't want it to include you. This makes no sense to me.

hey, you said you wanted

hey, you said you wanted people to point out your privilege. your privilege is showing with this comment. stop telling women who were actively excluded, sacrificed, and disenfranchised by feminism that they aren't feminist enough for not whole-heartedly embracing the movement.

It is not the role of 'POC'

It is not the role of 'POC' or any other marginalized group of individuals to point out every time someone acts ignorantly in privilege. We, as the people with privilege (specifically white women in this case), must instead take the time to educate ourselves and ask to build bridges of knowledge and solidarity across differences. There are tons of resources established to educate folks on their privilege, it's time we start using them instead of forcing groups to have to continuously deviate from the real issues they have at hand.
Also, I fail to see how this article is not feminist. Feminist is multi-faceted and has developed over the years due to constant self-reflection and critique. This article is contributing to that critique on an intersectional basis and while that may not be YOUR feminism, it sure is feminism for a lot of other folks.

Wait, "anonymous", you're

Wait, "anonymous", you're saying that your ignorance is innocent? Seriously? And where do you get off saying that this is not feminist commentary? Because it can't be both feminist and address privilege? Your lofty attitude here is comical. What privileged ideas of sisterhood and feminism do you portend to represent here? Brown girls know a hell of a lot about sisterhood because we know how we need to stick together in a world where there are still separate standards for all sorts of activism. Talk about throwing an entire movement under a bus--I think you just did that yourself. The punk movement was exclusive. It was white, and it was privileged in what it fought against and how it was fought. In one breath you say a bogus thank you for being called out on your privilege, and in the next you are arrogantly chastising the sister who called it out. Check yourself.

You're right about one thing:

You're right about one thing: you haven't fully checked your privilege. It's not the responsibility of POC to attempt to force themselves into spaces they feel are hostile to them. It's our responsibility as white people to try to eradicate that hostility.

Also, the measurement of whether a commentary is feminist is NOT how nice it is to you and your interests. Stifling the voices of women who aren't white, able-bodied, cisgendered, and heterosexual in the name of "sisterhood" or group unity is an unfortunate part of historical feminisms; let's not allow that trend to continue in the present day.

I don't see why you would

I don't see why you would think she didn't want the movement to include her. She states when she engaged in discussion with some of these women her point of view was not even considered. How is that sisterhood? "Agree or shut up" is anything but punk. They could have heard her out...Riot Grrrl could have been more interested in black females in general and done something much much more profound.

I'm happy to be able to reclaim the word "slut" for myself and I'm grateful for that but in the scheme of things, I think black women still have a lot to struggle through in comparison to privileged white girls. It'd be nice if more of us acknowledged that and cared to do something about it. Reading this makes me a little sick to my stomach how much time we spend lionizing these people from the past instead of looking at what they didn't do and taking it upon ourselves to finish the job.

As for your white privilege, maybe instead of thinking its the responsibility of non white people to point it out to you (which would put them in a position that would most likely end up with someone accusing them of pulling the "race card") you could instead do some of your own research. There is plenty of material on white privilege. I'd recommend Tim Wise's "White Like Me" to start.

Privilaged white girls

Hmm, I agree with your response to the original comment but look at the way you are referring to "black women" vs "privileged white girls." Is it possible to engage in a discussion without demeaning each other and dismissing each others' unique experiences? I myself am a privileged white "girl" as you would put it and I think it is infinitely important for white feminists to tune in to the experiences of people of color and take part in creating an inclusive feminist community that recognizes the experiences of diverse people and fights to end all forms of oppression. This has certainly been a failure of past feminist movements. This does not mean that its ok to make blanketed statements about white women or white feminists as if we are all the same and its certainly not ok to use patriarchal language to put people down because you disagree with one segment of that population.

From one privileged white girl to another

I'm also a privileged white girl feminist, and when we make this about us? And center ourselves in a conversation about women of color? It's not okay. Being judged and lumped into a stereotype is something that marginalized people deal with EVERY DAY. If you are not the kind of person the commenter was talking about then it's not about you. Don't suddenly make this about yourself when there is a bigger discussion at hand, that's actually the embodiment of what Laina Dawes is critiquing about riot grrrl.

I am the person who wrote

I am the person who wrote "privileged white girls". I am a white female. I did not mean to do that and I apologize. I guess I wrote "girls" just cause we're talking about "grrrls" here.

Who says that feminism has to

Who says that feminism has to be pro-sisterhood? Just because I'm a woman and another woman is too doesn't mean that we should be obligated to hold hands and say kumbaya.

LOL. I am sure other people

LOL. I am sure other people have schooled you but your statement just revealed how clueless you are and how you hide behind your privilege. Also the idea of sisterhood is cis-sexist and gross. Please expand your definitions of feminism because I don't want to be part of your 'movement'.

Not everyone's definition of

Not everyone's definition of sisterhood is cis-sexist. Mine is inclusive of anyone in any form self-identifying as female and who is wiling to be conscious of what it means, collectively or on an individual scale, to visibly represent as female in a culture that normalizes misogyny and sexual violence to the extent that ours does. You can't automatically assume that everyone who believes in a "sisterhood" ideal, or even uses the concept in discourse as though it is still relevant, is referring to a hetero-normative, cis-sexist excuse for privilege and exclusivity. As do many articles about Riot Grrrl, this one fails to contextualize the movement within the Third Wave: for example, Hanna wrote "slut" on her body at a time when many women (some of them Riot Grrrls,) were attempting to reclaim the word as a symbol for their own sexual autonomy, rather than a slur that passes judgment based on patriarchal definitions of a woman's "worth" and reproductive suitability. Since that experiment seems to have failed and slut is still used by most women in it's patriarchal context, Hanna's action now seems a bit self-defeating under modern examination. The word sisterhood has became so associated with much of the literature and activism of the second wave, while third wave politics grew to be much more aware and inclusive of the issues and marginalization that trans people face, even and especially within a self-identified "feminist" context.

Wow, really? Third-wave

Wow, really? Third-wave feminism wasn't inclusive of trans people. The reason that trans people and POC were not a huge part of the riot grrrl movement was because it was led by Kathleen Hanna, who was racist and cis-sexist. She wanted it to be a movement that changed the world, but only for white girls. Funny how that part often gets left out.
I am all for "girl power." Respect your girl friends, but also respect your boy friends, and your non-binary friends, and your friends of color. Don't exclude a group of people based on gender/race (both things that Kathleen Hanna did with riot grrrl); that's counteractive to feminism. You can't truly be a feminist and want equality for everybody if you do not accept people for who they are.

I really don't think it's

I really don't think it's productive or fair to call Kathleen Hanna racist or cis-sexist in such a blanketed way. It's one thing to point out the failures or faults of a movement, but to make personal attacks on someone's character - someone who, if you know anything about her, did have good intentions and is not a bigoted person - is really not helping anyone's cause. It only discourages discourse, understanding, and positive change moving forward. Hanna herself has admitted that the movement was flawed in it's inclusion of POC and has made statements about how, looking back, she could have done things to be more inclusive. If she's willing to critique her own choices and to be honest about her failures which were rooted in her perspective as a young, white woman, then I don't see how you can call her names and label her a bigot. There are plenty of people out there who are ACTUALLY racist and cis-sexist (and bigoted in many other ways). Why make each other out to be enemies? We may not fully understand each other and we may not always get it right, but constructive criticism seems much more useful to feminism than mud slinging.

It's an interesting comment.

It's an interesting comment. My experience is fairly different, and I am sitting with whether that is b/c of the specific communities of which I was a part. For me, third wave feminism was very much about genderfuck, genderqueer, attention to intersectional oppression, and really important spaces like Camp Trans. This is my reality. Having said that, although I am gender non-conforming, I am also white, so there are experiences to which I cannot speak. I hear and trust the author's lived experience and am saddened by it, and simultaneously recognize my privilege in my inability to know what the fuck.

You don't get it

Sisterhood? Not feminist? I *don't blame her for refusing to belong to anything that doesn't include her. WTH.
Maybe she didn't want it to include her because it would be tokenism? I don't know, it's not my place to guess, but damn it's no wonder why WOC distrust white feminism.

The whole sisterhood meme is historically very fucked up. You want your privilege pointed out? Well a few of us have done that. Now it's your turn to educate yourself. Find WOC blogs. Don't get defensive. Listen instead of talking.
Don't expect cookies, realize your going to make mistakes, learn from them. Understand what institutional racism is, Also reading about this history of Malcom X, the Black Panthers, the murder of Fred Hampton, Shirley Chisom, Angela Davis, bell hooks.
You'll be a better person for it.

There is SO much wrong with

There is SO much wrong with this statement.

It is NOT the job of POC to do this work for you. How can you NOT know your privilege? You live in the U.S.! There is a long HISTORY OF RACISM IN THE U.S.!!! Indigenous Genocide! The Atlantic Slave Trade! Jim Crow! The mass incarceration of Indigenous people and African Americans!

Here is a book to read: White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race

Here is a film to watch: Afro-Punk

Here is an article to read:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack

ALSO re: if this is a feminist text or not--seriously?? SERIOUSLY??? You just threw out everything Laina wrote by writing your comment. She's pointing out a problem within punk and feminism which by the way still exists!!!

To Laina and all the other POC who are in the punk scene thank you for dealing with so much bull shit. As a WOC myself and as the ONLY WOC at shows where I'm from, I'm in the pit raging hard for all of us.

Thank you for the links

Esp. the Afro Punk link. :) OT sorta: punk and metal (which I'm a big fan of esp Thrash metal) would not exist if not for African American musicians: Robert Johnson ,Big Mama Thorton? Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown.......

Hey white girls:

Education yourself. The tumblr below is a quick but good place to start. Don't get all pissy and defensive either if someone calls you out, even I cringed at a couple because I had said them before. Good medicine tastes bad. Realize you blew it and don't do it again. Make amends to whomever you've offended and don't expect them to fawn over you for it.
That said I don't want to call myself a feminist anymore because of the fuck ups and hateful things white feminists have said and done. Don't be that person



by your logic, shouldn't the riot grrls have stayed in the original scene and tried to fix it instead of just making thei own scene?

This is not a comment about

This is not a comment about the documentary. I loved the documentary. I don't think it was meant to address the problems with riot grrrl. But it's great that it has started a necessary dialogue about women of color in riot grrrl.
This is always an interesting topic to me. I was a riot grrrl. I am Chicana. I grew up working-poor, in barrios, bi-lingual, and bi-cultural. Although I don’t feel that riot grrrl opened it’s arms out to me, I did seek out meetings and hung in there for about 6 months. There were positive and negative experiences. The bottom line was that even though the meetings I was going to were somewhat diverse, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about race or class with all of the women and girls that attended. It was important to me to discuss those subjects, but it felt awkward (for lack of a better word). I didn’t know how to handle it then, so I stopped going. Nevertheless, Riot Grrrl was important to me and still is. I hope that current Riot Grrrls are doing things differently this time around.

I can relate to a lot of

I can relate to a lot of this. I agree that Riot Grrl was about white women: THIN, PRETTY, WHITE WOMEN. I was not thin and I was not pretty. I couldn't "own" my sexuality as a stripper because I didn't conform to that body standard. The line "I would have almost begged to be seen as a woman back then, but my ethnicity trumped my gender" particularly resonates with me because not actually fitting a certain 'acceptable' body type meant I wasn't seen as a woman either.
I am the same age as Kathleen Hanna. I should have been on the front line of Riot Grrl. But I couldn't write "slut" on my belly as a statement because no one ever saw it -- and more to the point, it was made quite clear to me that no one wanted to see it.
Funny how this movement included so few women of its generation...

I still heart riot grrrl, with caveats

Thank you for this piece. I was very active in the riot grrrl 'movement' and have also long been invested in understanding the many ways that it functioned as elitist and exclusionary, or was otherwise a generally inadequate platform to address a vast majority of women's lives. As a grown up (whatever that means), I've had the opportunity to teach Women's Studies to college freshmen and have been forced to confront my own tendencies to romanticize the era, as you accuse Tavi Gevinson of doing here. The experience has been very valuable.

While acknowledging the irrefutable truth you write about here—that young women of color did not (always) feel welcomed, understood or spoken for within the context of riot grrrl—I want to defend my personal (subjective) nostalgia for the 'movement.' I recognize all of its flaws, and yet I persist in romanticizing it a little because I got involved with it when I was 14. I romanticize it because at that point my girlfriends and I were just beginning our long, exhausting, soul-crushing careers as the subjects of male violence and aggression of all kinds (womanhood, in other words) and riot grrrl offered something at once playful and fearsome, a mini-culture we got to make and shape ourselves where we could be sexual without being sexualized and where we could tell the truth about a lot of shit no one wanted to talk about, including some serious, big ticket issues like rape, incest, and eating disorders. That we didn't craft a scene where more women felt at home is a damn shame. I think about ways we could have done better all the time. But the fact that teenage girls resuscitated the consciousness raising model of '70s feminism (which was also of course exclusionary and the province of the privileged) in suburban bedrooms and made zines about how it felt to be raped in high school was pretty incredible. Or maybe it just felt that way.

Regardless, I don't ever think my critical take on the movement and my nostalgia for it have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I would argue that this is how most people look back on their participation in most social movements: we could have done it better. We should have done it better. But still, that was pretty fucking cool.

[Also, you write defensively of having been in the pit, being "me" and not just Girl, the identity riot grrrls clung to. I was also deeply into hardcore and metal, I was also in the pit, and I ended up playing in a band and going on tour playing shows and living in a van with band dudes. But the whole point of riot grrrl—indeed, of feminism—was that that whole time, there was no essential "me" that was not also Girl. In male-centric domains like mosh pits, to say nothing of corporate boardrooms, etc., you are always already a marked body if you're female. Your piece seemed to move between arguing for and against this fundamental point. I guess maybe that just highlights a tension we all feel, some more than others, between the feeling of ME and the categories to which we're assigned.]

Good article. While I've not

Good article. While I've not yet seen The Punk Singer, Dasha Bikceem talks about the white-centric nature of the movement in an earlier documentary on riot grrrl (Don't Need You - The Herstory of Riot, available on youtube watch?v=a9G45K6FgaI , around 22 minutes in). Despite its very obvious limitations in terms of exclusion at the time riot grrrl has positively influenced a range of different people. Kinda sad if TPS doesn't reflect that.

Punk rock is inherently white

Punk rock is inherently white and privileged. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you have the means (by which I mean parents to pay your bills) to go around throwing shows for 30 of your friends to attend, put out records no one listens to and dress in such a way that you'll never achieve more than minimum wage, then you're privileged. I say this as someone who's been in the scene for 20 years. I laugh at the idea that Kathleen Hanna's current good fortune and iconic status could somehow be separated from her beauty. It can't- though she might still be a stripper today if she hadn't married a Beastie Boy. I was a suburban riot grrl back in the day, and it made perfect sense for me as a slutty white chick. I took my sexual privilege and attempted to make it a radical political statement. It failed. I hated the idea of an all-girl pit, still do. Everyone, irregardless of race, gender or class has the right to get bashed around in the pit. If someone touches you in a way you don't like, hit them. It's one of the only places where it's safe to do that.

Scenes that grow out of networks of teenage girls are going to be exclusionary, because that's what teenagers do! They draw the magic circle of exclusion to make a very narrow band of who's cool. At least the riot grrls were trying. I think most folks have forgotten that back then it wasn't cool to be lesbian or bisexual, and you certainly didn't tell anyone if you got assaulted. Until they came along and made it ok to scream at the top of your lungs, to talk, and to ask for help. They got that part absolutely right.

If there's a revival, maybe this time some rad POC will be the founding mothers. That would be the coolest thing ever.

Bad Brains...

Bad Brains...

I call BS on this. Maybe the

I call BS on this. Maybe the Riot Grrl scene was "white and privileged" Maybe a vast majority of Punk was, but don't erase the people who WERE there-the music that was being made by people of different backgrounds, in the very urban universe that we inhabited. Maybe not in the suburbs, but the Punk Scene in the 80's in the City where I lived, was very politically progressive, and racially mixed- there were Black Punks AND Black Skins (anti-racist music was part of the scene). By the time Riot Grrls were around, many of us had left the scene., and those of us who had to eat to live, did have to modify our lives to survive.

SoCal was different

In Los Angeles in the early 90s the riot grrrl scene was mostly hispanic, asian, and filipina. OC riot grrrl did shows with the local Black Panthers. One of the riot grrrl collectives in Los Angeles, Revolution Rising, was created specifically to address racism in the scene.

Were you there Anon?

Do you know if there are any zines left from L.A. Riot Grrrl? Video? Definitely a important part of history!

While I agree with you about

While I agree with you about the movement being very white, I really disagree with you about the movement being inherently privileged. Punk Rock is (was) actually a working class movement composed of largely white teens in blue color British neighborhoods. It's probably one of the more class-driven music movements we've seen. It's grounded in a dismantling of capitalism and an attention to anarchy, which is really fucking racist sometimes. But, it is not globally a movement of privilege by any stretch of the imagination.

Race and Class Are Not The Same Thing

So you know what class privilege is? Then you must also know that there are different kinds of privilege, so just because a movement was conducive to people who had little to no class privilege (People in the low to middle classes) doesn't mean that the movement was also conducive to people without racial privilege (People of color). Since the movement was primarily white, it was inherently privileged (In regards to race). If you don't know what white privilege is, then I encourage you to educate yourself on that matter. But in the future, please make the distinction between the two.

Important points

Thanks for your review. I especially appreciated the mention of the elephant in the room that Kathleen Hanna's relative good looks. While it doesn't mean her work is invalid, it makes me think about a young Polystyrene with braces at 14 belting out the vocals for X-Ray Specs that Hanna so closely (ahem) emulates.

I think you raise some

I think you raise some important points in this piece, but it is unfortunate that you are basing your critique entirely on the film "The Punk Singer". (Full disclosure, I loved the film and I'm a fan of Kathleen Hanna's work, but the film is a piece of fandom made for fans. It is not meant to be critical of her or her work, it is meant to document her importance as a feminist icon. And yes, she is a feminist icon, even if she is not your feminist icon. It doesn't do feminism any favours when we minimize the work of other feminists simply because we don't agree with everything they have done.)

The lack of awareness to race/racism in the riot grrrl movement has been addressed in other forums, in fact, Kathleen Hanna herself was/is critical of this. It was one of the main reasons she distanced herself from the riot grrrl movement as it grew. For more on this, I would suggest reading Girls To The Front by Sara Marcus. Also, even this documentary about riot grrrl gets into the race issue: http://networkawesome.com/show/dont-need-you-the-herstory-of-riot-grrrl/ (She has also spoken to the privilege she enjoyed as an attractive woman in the past as well, to address another one of your points.)

My point is that there is a lot to critical about past (and contemporary) feminism, but I think we need to focus on constructive criticism rather than discrediting an entire movement, that while flawed was important in many ways and to many people. You are certainly right that feminism must be intersectional to be both theoretically rigorous and meaningful in application. But it does not mean that there is no value in attempts that fell/fall short of this goal.

Finally, about half way down in this article you say:

"The film shows snippets of footage of young white women in that era, saying that the riot grrrl was a scene in which they didn’t have to fight in the mosh pit, or have men sexualize them for being at a show. For me, I was in the mosh pit, getting bruised and punched because as an individual, not as a woman, I wanted to be where the action was and even back then I knew that allies, regardless of gender, were few and far between. So I was just me. "

I'm sure this is not what you mean, but reading this made me very uncomfortable. This echoes the argument that people just need to "work harder" if they don't want to be poor. It seems like you are saying that women should have just sucked it up and gotten in the mosh pits; that focusing on the fact that they were women is what kept them from enjoying the privilege that men had.

(ps. I also agree that Tavi was woefully misused in the film, to the point where I questioned why they used her at all. I think she could have had some very interesting insights into how feminist blogging represents a kind of continuity of zine culture for girls and young women today . . . but no such luck)

Able-Bodied? Did Anyone SEE the film???

As a queer person who lives with a life altering chronic illness, I found this film empowering in it's portrayal of the fear, shame and total silence that surrounds illness. And funny thing is, articles like this continue to keep the issue of illness silent because it muddies up "the point." I understand that feminism is a complicated issue, as is re-examining history and race relations, but please don't minimize (um completely silence) aspects of this movie simply because they don't fit into your idea of everyone in the film being of privilege (in every sense of the word including "able-bodied" & "comfortable"). And, on a side note, why must the word "able-bodied" be always lumped into the "non-privilege" list and yet issues involving illness are never addressed by the people who "add" us in there? DONE!


Not all riot grrrl scenes were the same, and many riot grrrls were solitary, not part of any scene. Angie Young the director of The Coat Hanger Project is doing a documentary called Riot Grrrl: The Self Told Narrative, the first to look at scenes that didn't fit the stereotype. For instance Los Angeles where white girls and college students were in the minority. The film is in production. Please contact them if you'd like to be interviewed. You can read more about it here and there's a link to the film's FB page: http://newtopiamagazine.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/annual-riot-grrrl-memoir/

Sorry , just reading article

Sorry , just reading article then , comments, but I am not a "privileged white girl" which I find not racially offensive , but just out right ignorant, not the whole white female race is fortunate and "privileged" I have fought many battles on my own to keep a roof above my head, for healthcare and other means to survive, to marginalize a whole race of people and a movement shows lack of exposure , and yes i as a white female have experienced exclusion and attitude from , white privileged girls, with in or proclaiming the title of riot grrrl , and have at most times felt to be an outsider in an movement miss- lead and represented by people. I personally do not and will not acknowledged Kathleen Hanna as the head leader and as a person who started movement , I find her to be a stuffy , whiny , women who I never felt did much at all for women in music that was not done before , and now she is a lofty middle aged women high on her pedestal looking down on new wave of feminist and riot grrlrs. She is such a bad representation of what riot grrrl meant for me , which was not being afraid to pick up my guitar and make sme noise , even if I did not play like Metallica , which I can , but to make my own music , not be afraid to wear and be comfortable in my own skin whatever shade that may be , and not all males are the enemy , a big miss understanding , Many male musician in punk and rock and hip hop , have been supportive and backed female musicians. Many male musicians in predominantly female bands!!! Also so much more to riot grrrl , and ye I am one of the rare non stereo type riot grrrls who did not fit into main stream view of what it is , I also enjoy many types of music and other scenes. Not just one dimensional. One important thing , I feel to take away from any scene, think for yourself and follow what you feel is right , not what is dictated to you by any particular "leader" of a scene, no scene should have a leader , you are you own person , not to be defined by one particular view or set of rules ....

I think there's some

I think there's some confusion over "privilege." Calling someone "privileged" implies they're rich. Saying someone has white privilege, if they're white, is just a statement that they'll undoubtedly run into situations where some agent in a system gives them an advantage for being white instead of a POC. Similar to the men you mention who support women artists, those men will still have male privilege, whether they care about women's issues or not.

White privilege 101


So much stuff to unpack in your comment but I'm too tired.

1. I don't think you'd be as comfortable in your skin if you weren't white.

2.<I>and not all males are the enemy , a big miss understanding , Many male musician in punk and rock and hip hop , have been supportive and backed female musicians. Many male musicians in predominantly female bands!!! </I>

Guess what? Men have male privilege, and usually flip the fuck out when it's pointed out to them. White men? Holy shit they are the worst, even so called liberal men. We live in a society that HATES women, that glorifies rape, that lets men murder women with a shrug, unless they are white, pretty, cis-gendered middle class women.
So excuse me, but even hetrosexual me is wary of men, ESP. white men. They know they can get away with more shit from society that would get moc killed.
Fuck, I hate seeing comments like this on a so called progressive blog. And it's no wonder women of color don't trust us.

so because she doesn't choose

so because she doesn't choose to generalise, that makes her un-progressive? lol. 'white men are the worst' - do you have statistics to back that up? grow up! just because white/male privilege exists it doesn't mean every single white person/male is awful by default. imagine making these generalisations about other groups based on statistics, there would be uproar!! btw i am a POC and working class woman. i'm guessing you're a guilt ridden white girl who reads too many 'check your privilege' tumblrs, lol. BYE.

Seems bitter. Don't undermine

Seems bitter. Don't undermine Kathleen Hanna's work just because she is a white female who didn't do everything up to your standards. Every action matters by all sisters everywhere. She made things better for the community around her and for future females.

Good points, Wrong context

The writer raises some interesting points, based upon her personal experience RE: riot grrrl - her experience is limited to the place/scene that she was a part of (as noted by a comment, the scene in CA - where I lived - was a lot more racially diverse). After all Riot Grrrl and third wave feminism was a global movement.

Though her point is valid, using The Punk Singer as the target of her disappointment with roit grrrl and punk rock is seriously misguided.

The film is called THE PUNK SINGER, it's about the life and career of one person. It's not a portrait of Roit Grrrl. It is not about any single scene or time. It spans twenty plus years of an artists life and work... It's about Kathleen Hanna.

Using the film as a target and a launching pad for the writer's own opinions and issues with Roit Grrrl is disingenuous at best, unfair and opportunistic at worst.

Yes ! thank you for saying

Yes ! thank you for saying that.
And this earlier comment needs repeating as well

" In Los Angeles in the early 90s the riot grrrl scene was mostly hispanic, asian, and filipina. OC riot grrrl did shows with the local Black Panthers. One of the riot grrrl collectives in Los Angeles, Revolution Rising, was created specifically to address racism in the scene. "

There was a whole mexican american scene going on in LA.
And In Olympia,WA. where a lot of the Riot Grrrl scene developed is very predominantly white and not exactly the home of rich kids either. (Tonya Harding ? and that richie rich Kurt Cobain)

In NYC the punk scene was full of blacks, and females, and Puerto Ricans, Hatians, ever hear of The Black Rock Coalition ? A little band called Living Color was a part of it.
punk, riot grrrl, post punk, anyone who wanted to be a part of it only ever had to show up and be able to play.

I am wondering if the person who wrote this article has ever humped gear in and out of a beat up van ?
If you were not part of a scene how can you know who was there ?

me ? I'm a woman of color, a drummer, and I've been there, done that, twice, got the t shirt !!
and I wasn't the only one.


Though parts of this article are somewhat incoherent, it makes a point that a lot of white feminists who don't have a huge background in intersectional feminism (like myself) need to hear, which is that there are fundamentally different defining factors of womanhood/femaleness/the female experience between white and black women.
I used to think the only difference between white and non-white women in regards to feminism was that non-white women were subject to both sexism and racism. But articles like this help point to the fact that it's far more complicated than that.



Here is an old interview with Kathleen Hanna, I don't know if it specifically is addressed in the movie, but here's one quote:
"And then someone brought up that it was really racist for the white girls to assume that non-white girls/girls of color would want to be involved in what was basically a white girl thing, a thing that had pretty much been based on the needs of white women and girls. You know? Like, does bell hooks really want to go to Lollapalooza?"

(The last part refers to the Beastie Boys genuinely considering the risk/benefit of inviting bell hooks to Lollapalooza.)

never a Riot Grrl

Laina, thanks for this thought-provoking article. So glad heard about you through NPR!

Not my cup of tea

I wanted to like it badly, but Kathleen Hanna has always seemed to me to have this naivete that I cannot be comfortable with. I was the perfect age to get into Riot Grrrl when it was around, but I have always been wary of groups with an inherent ideology. I prefer much more to form my own views, which are never quite synonymous with the group's.


<i>I was the perfect age to get into Riot Grrrl when it was around, but I have always been wary of groups with an inherent ideology. I prefer much more to form my own views, which are never quite synonymous with the group's.</i>

~describes me in a nutshell. I look at Bikini Kill fondly, but never quite felt that the whole scene had anything to do with me.

WOWSERZ!! I was just amazed

WOWSERZ!! I was just amazed that someone even wrote this article and then I started reading the comments, and goodness gracious, it was almost like I was reading my own personal conflicting conversations I have in my head....First of all, thank you Laina for being able to put these confusing feelings about this subject into words....I've never heard anyone else so closely state similar experiences about attending shows, of any musical form, like you have...From my own observations (about 15 years now) of going to metal/punk/everything between, I quickly realized how important it was to make sure my comrades (friends AND strangers) were on the same trusting level while thrashing and moshing around....I hadn't thought about this before but it was because of situations like a 250 LB, long-haired, thrashing male picking me up and into a safety cradle WHILE in a pit, that I was able to avoid falling into the trap of dominating labels--for head-banging's sake! I was there for MUSIC, and to feel like I was among my own, regardless of pigment or genitals, I felt better as a HUMAN for being able to stomp out pent up emotions and have fun doing so...
-Second, I'm so glad that threads like this exist because it serves as a conduit for pro-actively educating ourselves...via...ourselves; what's more important is that even though these conversations seem a bit "two-thousand-late", they are appropriately timed and quite obviously needed...in opposition to one comment made, I do support the act of speaking up and complaining about things that bother you (isn't that what these articles and comment forums for?), otherwise these things WILL get swept under the rug and stay there, and then eventually suck us under there with them...
-Third, we are closing in on the next steps of our evolutionary climb through this universal stairway...the language that we've been taught to use is outright turning outdated; transforming the way in which we think abut how to say things will lead us into being better teachers...the whole "privilege" regurgitated fodder is messing with everyone's ability to learn, retain, and move on...by claiming this whole notion that's been heard and repeated numerous times, is to put oneself on some kind of pedestal and push away from being able to link into our insane human chain...we think as uniquely as we look and that's a GREAT thing to acknowledge and possess! From the time before we were zygotes our purpose has not been to "stay put" but to (hopefully) positively and progressively force ourselves to function, somewhat coherently with everything else that is struggling to do the same...
-Finally, I am very motivated and inspired to start writing about my own experiences now and I really want to hear accounts from so many of the others who commented on this article...maybe we can get some kind of massive international zine going ladies!!!

Well put! I hope you do talk

Well put! I hope you do talk about your experience/start a zine

I was actually around for

I was actually around for riot grrrl - more around the periphery, never thought of myself as part of it, but it was a large presence when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I still have, for example, a couple of Bikini Kill EPs and some old zines. (White queer trans guy here, lower middle class, pink collar gig.)

I find the way that the history of riot grrl is being written/filmed to be really problematic, both because it falsifies what actually happened and because it concentrates on setting up a handful of women as leaders and heroes, and all those women are white, middle class, able-bodied and have parlayed their riot grrl days into celebrity. It takes a time that was confusing, good and bad, up for grabs, radical and racist by turns, and describes it as a golden age of heroic feminism. And it does this in the service of fashion, sales, self-branding.

Folks are absolutely right that riot grrl was incredibly white. I never, <i>ever</i> read anything in any Riot Grrl material that alluded to race except in a "and there's sexism and racism and homophobia"-style laundry list. The left/anarchist/political/feminist-sympathizing punk scene was incredibly, incredibly white in most of the country, with IIRC some difference in New York and CA. I grew up in a very segregated and racist town in the Midwest and did not even recognize this at the time, but I still remember reading bell hooks's book <i>Black Looks</i> in my early twenties and being just completely blown away, it changed my political worldview so deeply - which would not have been this big dramatic revelation if I'd been encountering stuff about race in riot grrl. ( I look back and one of the most pivotal moments of my <i>life</i> was thinking "hey, this is a book about movies and pop culture, and I sort of know that racism still exists, so it might be kind of cool".)

I have huge problems with the way riot grrl is being turned into this golden age nostalgia factory "Kathleen Hanna the elder stateswoman of punk rock" business. I don't like the way riot grrl is being dressed up as this big giant fashion marketing self-branding opportunity - it was a flawed movement which did some things really well and other things really badly, like a lot of artistic and political movements. I think it's important to criticize what was going on in terms of race and white supremacy, but I also think that it's just as important to stop treating riot grrl like a Big Giant Magisterial Referendum On Punk Rock And Feminism, treating it like something that was either Very Good or a Total Failure. If we talk about it as "an artistic and political scene full of people who could be awesome in some ways and then incredibly fucked up in others", it's easy to say "hey, these were ordinary people who did some good stuff and some hurtful and ignorant stuff. We are probably doing some good stuff and some hurtful stuff right now in our own activism. What led them to believe that they were <i>not</i> doing hurtful and ignorant stuff? What can we learn from their mistakes so that we can try to improve?"

It's funny, one thing there really <i>was</i> back in the riot grrl day was this criticism of heroes, which is why it's so perverse that Kathleen Hanna has risen to the kind of fame she's attained. It would have seemed against people's beliefs to imagine a future world where "Riot Grrl" was a fashion thing, where one woman was the Famous Face, where the ordinary flailings, successes and fuck-ups of a bunch of ordinary people should be held up like a plan for a new world. Where someone's <i>papers</i> for chrissake, should be treated like this.

Another thing I notice in contemporary treatments of riot grrl - how it totally flattens the experience of even the white women who were around then. One reason I read some zines and got some albums back then but never really got into it (I identified as a woman then) - it seemed like a movement for women whose big problem was being treated as sex objects by men. Like, I would never write "slut" on my chubby stomach or wear a crop-top, because that's cute when it's Kathleen Hanna but a ridiculous joke when you're unwanted, called ugly all the time, living as a butch queer woman. All that "cute vintage dresses" stuff was predicated on the idea that you <i>had</i> beauty and cuteness and attractiveness, but they <i>weren't recognized by the regular world</i>. The girls I knew who really participated in riot grrl were all slim, feminine and pretty, and their problems with patriarchy were contoured by that way of being. (These were real, genuine <i>problems</i>, though - I'm not saying that if you are slim, feminine and pretty you should just accept being sexually harassed and marginalized.)

At least for me, systems of knowledge were really different then - this was before the internet and unless you lived in a city or were really plugged in to left/radical/feminist/anti-racist/activist knowledge distribution systems it was incredibly hard to find out about things. I look back on my then-self and realize that until I happened across the bell hooks book completely by accident, <i>I had almost no access to any kind of critical material about race, racism or white supremacy</i>. My local library had a couple of Toni Morrison books and some Alice Walker, probably a few other things, but there was no <i>system of knowledge</i> for me to fit those things into or to discover more. The one thing I want younger people to understand that is <i>so different now</i> - it was <i>so easy</i> to be incredibly ignorant of large, important things if you did not experience them daily. I was known in my high school as this bizarre communist (that was a term of insult back then, even though I didn't know anything about communism) because I believed that maybe racism still existed sorta, a little bit, and maybe it had not actually been necessary to commit genocide against native people. My political ideas were so timid and weak and inadequate, but in that time of much more restricted information, they looked like radical ideas to my peers. (And were met with incredible hostility). I feel so fortunate now that I am able to read the work of incredible historians, theorists, tumblr folks, artists of color - unlike in my late teens and early twenties, when I had this pervasive sense that there was <i>something</i> I did not know, but it was out of reach.

Is that an <i>excuse</i> for riot grrl's whiteness? No, it's not. There were some things that <i>contoured</i> the whiteness of riot grrl, and one of them was how incredibly ignorant a lot of us white participants were. Now, today, that's why it's so important not to hold up "riot grrl" as this great, magic moment. At best, we were really, really ignorant. The value-judgment question is "what did you do when you had the opportunity to <i>stop</i> being ignorant?" And I'm sure that there were many concrete instances of failure - I am sure that there were times when white women who described themselves as riot grrls said and did directly racist things, invalidated the experiences of women of color, chose consciously not to talk about racism or our own whiteness. Those things in particular are inexcusable - it's one thing to be ignorant in an abstract way, and another to fail people who are right there in front of you.

It's really scary to me that Kathleen Hanna is playing along with all of this. Is that the way that movements will always go? Like, we'll try to have a critique of heroes, we'll try NOT to have the idea that some people are Perfect Great Awesome Leaders....and then twenty years down the line, we have this story about Perfect Great Awesome Leaders that obscures the real lived experience of the time, in both its successes and its failures. It really makes me hyper-aware of how dangerous certain ways of writing history are.

There were so many women in riot grrl, so many zines, so much music. It isn't true that all white women in riot grrl had the option of exit into a middle class, heteronormative married existence. It's just that when we <i>write the history</i> of riot grrl, that is the comfortable history that fits in with a white supremacist, heteronormative understanding of the world. It is <i>comforting</i> to a lot of people to think that you can "dabble" in a subculture and then get out when you want to, and that people's choices to participate in a subculture (or in sex work) are purely free-market individual choices. That is why women whose experience did NOT match that get written out.

Another thing that strikes me - in punk rock generally, the experience of working class punks gets totally written out. I am slightly troubled by the whole "punk women who do sex work are slumming, have access to health care, etc" narrative - not because it is untrue (and there sure was a fashion for middle class women stripping to be all transgressive back then, something else that made me aware of how I was not like them) but because it is sometimes used against working class punk women who do sex work. I have a friend, for instance, who has been through a lot, and one of the things that has perennially sucked for her, as she's tried to participate in radical political and artistic stuff, has been the assumption that she is just slumming when she does shitty jobs, works as a stripper, lives in shitty apartments, etc. I think that when there is this critique of middle class privilege, folks need to be careful to remember that <i>style</i> does not necessarily map perfectly onto <i>class</i>.

Thank you

Thank you for the thoughtful and critical commentary. I think it adds nicely to the discussion in a charitable way.

What it was for.

Like the author, in my 20's at the this time, I was not a Riot Grrrl. I too was deep into grunge. We can debate the flaws of the Riot Grrrl movement, but not the impact they had on young women at the time. Being a teenager in the 80's was all about misogynist heavy metal. All it did was sexualize women. Although I agree with her article, let's not leave out the fact that up until this time women were not respected within the music industry, especially punk or any music that was not poppy. If the Riot Grrrl movement pushed women to wake up to what was going on around them politically or within society then let's not diminish their impact on women in general. Could they have done a better job, yes. But if you look at history we take small steps within societal change. Women now can play and write any music they want. Young women need to not take for granted the past and continue to fight for women's rights, whether it's playing music or our place at the table. It will not be perfect and it will be a messy fight.

The Real Issue

The real issue here is the buzz and idolatry of Riot Grrl fails to critique Kathleen and the movements message.

I think it's great that riot grrl gave a space for women to be punk and wild and not have to worry about some dudes molesting them. But it was racist and classist in the fact that no songs I've ever heard by any of those riot grrl bands tries to confront racism, and classism. It's all very much centered around a white middle class experience of gender.

Women of color were constantly erased. Given no mention to or solidarity. The fact that Riot Grrl encourages women to choose to sexually exploit themselves, take their clothes off, and identify with terms such as "slut" shows how it failed to critique gender or recognize that women of color EXIST. And that our bodies are seen as slutty and dirty. And trying to claim those labels is not liberating at all for us, but will lead to further rape of us.

FUCK Riot Grrl, because these idiots were too privileged, yet apparently not privileged enough to incorporate anything from the second wave, to understand that it's not all about them. The movement lacked intellectuality and was all about white girl lifestylism and carelessness.

Kathleen Hanna's typical subcultural immature mentality lead her to support the animal abusing, porn embracing, male created, Pussy Riot. A bunch of women who had manarchists hands shoved so far up their skirts they were willing to participate in public humiliation by men.

Kathleen Hanna has mainstream appeal because she fits patriarchal beauty standards, and married a beastie boy. The mainstream also picks up on Riot Grrl because her type of feminism does not actually hurt or challenged patriarchy.

Wtf?! Riot Grrrl music was never racist!

If you were not in the scene at the time how can you say it was racist? Riot grrl music was never racist. I grew up in NJ and went to Sleater Kinney shows in NYC and Philly with my black girlfriend at the time. I also have a friend who is East Indian and another who is Chinese that were also attending SK, Bikini Kill and Le Tigre shows during the time. Riot grrl music was very progressive and completely against racism and any form of oppression. The Le Tigre song FYR is about black people not getting reparation. Maybe privileged white girls where the ones who had the means of not having to work and be able to afford the instruments. So yes they were the ones making the music. But it was a scene for all women and was never ever racist. The audience was majority white in the same way say India Arie's audience is mostly black.

As a Gen Xer who was actually around back then

I have to say that I think some of these younger people are viewing the RG (or punk) movement incorrectly in terms of context. To start with, you have to understand the climate from which the RG movement emerged. 1980s: Very white. As was all popular cutlure. Check out a John Hughes film. For the most part, POC's, nonwhite, non-beauty standard, non-straight, non-able bodied voices were not heard. Hell, people with tattoos and who wore their baseball cap backwards were met with hostility (yes, the backwards baseball cap, the signifier of all things bro used to read as subversive to Baby Boomers). This was the time when rock stars still wore shirts that read, "AIDS: Kills Fags Dead" (See Guns n' Roses). Can you imagine is someone wore that today? That's how much things have changed.

I would argue that judging the movement 25 years ago by today's standards is like judging the JFK by today's standards. They were breaking through during aninflexible,. non-tolerant time and I think definitely helped lay the groundwork for the more tolerant climate of today (though still not perfect). They may not have been as far along as we would have hoped today, but the Feminism/Riot Grrrl/PC (and much of the early grunge) of the late 80s/early 90s ideology was definitely not racist (I realize people had different experiences). The whole point was questioning the paradigms for gender, race, appearance, etc. Yes, they were still learning about white privilege, but for god's sake, they were talking about it, which is pretty amazing in Reagan's/Bush #1's America. No movement is politically perfect and reflects everyone. But to paint RG as racist is deeply flawed.

But what about the music?

Irrespective of all these flip accusations of racism, elitism, blah blah blah....there should be something said about the music itself. For all the fanzines and associated rhetoric, the nerve center of the "scene" was still the music and the live music performances. And in what, musically speaking, did the riot grrrl scene culminate? Any classic anthems that are still revered today by more than a half dozen diehards? Nope. A sad fact that the riot grrrl scene still doesn't own up to is that the music was weak, cookie cutter, and not memorable. I guess it's tough to say that those awful, sexist, male pig punks made a hell of a lot better music.

"Rebel Girl" is still iconic.

"Rebel Girl" is still iconic. And certainly the lyric from "White Boy": "I'm so sorry if I'm alienating some of you. Your whole fucking culture alienates me" I do think she made better music once Le Tigre started though.

That was a brilliant article

That was a brilliant article !!
Let's face it, they were questionable feminists to begin with !!
blowing hot air around

Yo uh I just finished

Yo uh I just finished watching this and I'm 99% sure that it was another member of Bikini Kill not Hannah that said she was a stripper. I can feel you though, all white girls look alike.

PS - I find it kind of a joke

PS - I find it kind of a joke that you're dismissing what she had to say simply on the basis that she's attractive.

stop hating

i have been hearing from a friend who goes and reads all these blogs that there is a huge fracture in the feminist world, we dont have to agree, but maybe lets not stamp out each others fire.

Its so sad that the author

Its so sad that the author had to make it about rave. That is the number one problem we all face, it can never just be an idea or a movement or a song a job an ANYTHING without being about race. The ignorance and blatant racism in this article is unfortunate. You were not "part of it" or "interested" , you say, because you were seeking something more aggressive, more physical then what those bands were offering. And that's totally cool! But own THAT part of it. The main bands were predominantly white, not because they were exclusive, BUT because its the fricken Pacific North West! Any one was welcomed to join in, but, like the author, CHOSE not to.

Quit with the racist b.s. already! Stop taking 3 steps back. U didn't like it. . you didn't like it! that's all I hate Justin beiber cuz I think he sucks, not because he's a white male, "privileged" as you lie to throw around, or Canadian. ... is cuz he's not good!and I'm just not into that!

Stop playing the race card. It makes you sound ignorant. Its sad that you uninvited yourself from the party that had no formal invitations.


I think that we should really have more solidarity and work together for our common goal of equality for all people. I think we should appreciate great feminist work like Kathleen Hanna's regardless of what skin color she has. To me it seems like doing the opposite is falling into one of the traps of patriarchy: Dividing oppressed peoples and not allowing them to have solidarity and collect together to support one another and create great things. By being divided as feminists we are losing focus and losing support. I think instead of fighting against white feminists we should fight for global solidarity, equal rights for all people, and any injustices such as sexism, racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, etc. Needless to say I want to support women of color in any way I can, but by being told that art made by white women is invalid and you would rather support white men enrages me.

This term privileged white

This term privileged white girl. You don't know me and you don't know any of these other women, which deeply offends me. My skin color is white, but my thoughts and actions are not defined by my skin color. How I was raised was not defined by my skin color. This shit goes deeper than skin. You're basically pissed because this documentary focused on ONE leader and her influence in HER movement and did not focus on black women. The Riot Grrrl movement appealed to everyone of all types and skin colors and was started by Kathleen Hanna who HAPPENS to be white and a band who just HAPPENS to not have any black members. The only racist here is the author. Shame on her for dragging her race into a long war that has been fought by same team for centuries.

I find in incredibly unfortunate that we can not travel back in time and try to fix the errors in the first and second waves of feminism movement to include our sisters and for that, I will forever understand the eternal grudge, but just because a particular segment of modern feminism did not appeal to you, does not mean it was racist. It appealed to other women of all kinds and introduced them to the on-going battle that we have fought for centuries until present day. As women united together, we should try to encourage one another and move together against this social construct of race. We will only be able to surpass this peacefully together, not dragging a whole movement down because we didn't feel connected to it.

Whether or not you realize

Whether or not you realize it, or want to, your skin color does give certain privileges or disadvantages. Not because of you, but because of the prejudices of the people around you. It isn't racist to point that out, it's a common and proven fact. Say as a woman, you don't have male privilege. That alters your life experience in innumerable ways, as I'm sure you totally get being into riot grrrl. POCs have an insurmountably different life experience and set of issues to deal with than do the white population, regardless of gender. But yeah, sure, we should all try to work together to pass the difficulties and challenges in our society. One of the ways of doing this is by realizing such differences. Not letting them rule us, but by giving us a broader perspective.

Riot grrrrl Perspective

Thanks for this piece. I just watched the Punk Singer last night, primarily due to my interest in music. I'm a white male almost 60 so I could be imagined as entirely insensitive to the issues raised. The film was valuable to me in several respects, but I think number one was the clear statement concerning the pain of a person who is relegated to object status based on criteria beyond her control. Our culture is blind to the imbalance in the way we treat women. As much as we've banished overt sexist talk from the workplace and polite discussion, women are still elevated or dismissed based on criteria that are not applied to men. Most of all though, I want to say thanks for this perspective. I detected an ordinary amount of hypocrisy in the view that the filmmaker chose to give us, it was simply amplified by Hanna's powerful personality. After all, I subscribe to the view that we're almost all self-righteous hypocrites when we step back and look at ourselves honestly.

Did you not even think of the

<p>Did you not even think of the fact that they were in a different area, Olympia ( i have lived there) WA dc(have not) but the majority of people there are white, that means a majority of the girls were white, that doesnt mean they werent for equality of all races, kathleen talks about it all the time. It was about not being scared and equality if you fought with them or not.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Olympia early 1990s scene

I lived in Olympia pre second wave riot grrl - which Kathleen was part of- yes there was a first wave that never got media attention - and witnessed a dead men don't rape rally at evergreen by early 90s riot grrls at evergreen- I was standing with my black girlfriend who said confused and disappointed why are there no black riot grrls? The Oly riot grrls were of a white middle class background and privileged and often were seen as a sorority of sorts . There has definitely been a mythology propagated - exclusion and girl competition and jealousy were rife amongst Kathleen and the scene - it's with mature hindsight that an ideal of inclusive feminism has come to be propagated in the media by Kathleen - which is how it should be as we all can rewrite history and reorient the feminist project in a better direction that it deserves to be.

This has definitely been a

This has definitely been a good read. I'm disappointed that a movement I took so much from (in hindsight, I guess, I was born in '92) could still be so divided and non-inclusive. Anybody have any other articles or books that would be good to look into?

Check out the book girls to

Check out the book girls to the front

Olympia 90s and now

I lived in Olympia pre second wave riot grrl - which Kathleen was part of- yes there was a first wave that never got media attention - and witnessed a dead men don't rape rally at evergreen by early 90s riot grrls at evergreen- I was standing with my black girlfriend who said confused and disappointed why are there no black riot grrls? The Oly riot grrls were of a white middle class background and privileged and often were seen as a sorority of sorts . There has definitely been a mythology propagated - exclusion and girl competition and jealousy were rife amongst Kathleen and the scene - it's with mature hindsight that an ideal of inclusive feminism has come to be propagated in the media by Kathleen - which is how it should be as we all can rewrite history her story and reorient the feminist project in a better direction that it deserves to be.

Jennifer Herrema RULES

This discussion was started by Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux/RTX/Black Bananas back when she was starting out as a youngster in the early 90's. She refused to play with Bikini Kill and has never participated in anything that is exclusively for "women" and has always maintained her identity as a human being as opposed to a "woman" in rock. She has been "opting" out and in interviews and conversations since 1990 but then again she has always been "ahead of the pack and against the grain". This conversation is not new as she planted the seed 20 years ago but like most things Herrema she was ahead of her time.

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